The Holidays: Less stress, more compromise.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My husband and I have contrasting personalities. The epitome of opposites attracting, over the years our differences have served to highlight each other's unique individuality, while softening the edges on our respective qualities that could use an evolution. Our upbringings, our life goals, our social dynamics, our parenting styles—it's all so different.

We lock horns with some regularity, but the love is profound. Mario is my safe person; I absolutely adore my husband, quirks and all. We laugh a lot more than we bicker and that's not nothing. That being said, this introvert often struggles being married to an extremely extroverted man. Most often my idea of a perfect Saturday night is curling up on the couch with Netflix and some takeout; much less so for him. A bustling up-and-coming restaurant is more his scene. Still, we make it work. Not only that, we are really good at it most of the time. A lot of compromise, yes, but I also think our interests have merged significantly in the 15+ years we've spent together. I'm a more social, mellow version of my old self, and he's a more grounded version of the man he was a decade ago. We are often told by friends and family how awesome our relationship is and I feel the same way.

We have been immensely successful merging two very different personalities into one marriage—most of the time our differences don't play into our daily life—but occasionally an issue will arise that brings into stark contrast just how fundamentally different we can be.

Discussing our Christmas vacation plans is one such issue; I feel a strong pull to tradition, and he feels a strong pull to his family and friends.

This year I'm feeling nostalgic: Kiddo is a senior and I'm taking every opportunity to embrace the holidays and their prospective traditions. I went all out for Halloween, and even broke my own rule and started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I want this year's festivities to be really, really special. (Possibly to the point of creating unnecessary pressure + stress for myself.) I want the richness to come from tradition and time spent together, and my goals have not changed in regard to reducing material objects and embracing simplicity during the holidays.

Husband is also feeling nostalgic, but is pushing very hard to spend Christmas with his family in another state. I'll be honest: it has caused a fair amount of discord over the past couple weeks. After a bit of a standoff, we decided to spend Christmas Day with his family. I'll still have my family traditions, but it will look a little different and follow an alternative timeline. It wasn't an easy concession for me to make, but sharing a life involves give and take.

I have no doubt we will enjoy a lovely holiday road trip and time spent with family and friends. We always do. Nevertheless this situation has brought to light a lot of personal conflict that can arise during the holidays. How easy it can be to fall into the trap of consumerism, competition and obligation, all of which rob us of our joy.

The decision has been made and I'm going to work very hard not to ruminate on all those little compromises. Sometimes the vision has to change, no matter how grudgingly that change comes about. This is life and love and goes hand-in-hand with the commitment to spend your life with another person. At the end of the day Mario is what is most important. His happiness and vision count, too.

The tree went up this weekend and I'm creating Christmas-y little corners around the house. My childhood traditions of appetizers-for-dinner on Christmas Eve + cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning will carry on...on a different day. Because at the end of it all it's about family. Christmas morning in a hotel room is still Christmas morning if we are together. Oh, and just because we are seeing extended family on Christmas Day most certainly does not mean we need to abandon our goals of a simpler Christmas by showing up with an armload of presents. (Or likewise receiving them.)

Here's to embracing tradition, with flexibility, and putting others before ourselves. And here's to handmade gifts, embracing new opportunities and making memories. (And to never, ever keeping score in a marriage.)

Some thoughtful articles and ideas I've been reading and taking to heart these past few days:

Stress Less About Giving

Ground Rules + What I'm Really Gifting This Year (Erin has so many wise words on the issue of Christmas and gift-giving.)

Gracious Gifts (applicable to children and adult gift-giving & receiving)

Coping with Holiday Stress (yes!)

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